SOME grounds often seem more difficult than others and Priestfield Stadium certainly has been one of those for Rotherham United.
It has proved so once again and although they certainly played their part in a tough, hard-fought clash Gillingham proved too lethal up front, particularly the dangerous Cody McDonald who scored twice and whose pace caused so much damage.
The Millers were in it to the final minutes, Adam Le Fondre firing over a gaping goal before Gillingham snatched their third two minutes from time to confirm Rotherham’s fourth straight away defeat, three against promotion rivals.
A moment of controversy came on the half-hour when Millers keeper Andy Warrington was the victim of a late challenge by Curtis Weston for which the Gillingham midfielder was extremely fortunate not to be sent off – the keeper requiring 12 stitches to three cuts to his head after leaving the action.
Certainly we could hardly have had a livelier start – a Millers near-miss and a goal each in the first three goal threats inside the opening seven minutes.
Ryan Taylor, receiving from Law, drilled an 18 yard right footer just wide. So, the Millers could have led but from the resultant Gills goalkick, the home side took the lead.
The high ball down the middle wasn’t dealt with and McDonald’s pace caught out Tonge and Newey and his shot struck Warrington’s legs but bounced on into the net.
It could hardly have been a worse start for the Millers. Not least because in the last three losing away games they’d spent a total of around 140 minutes trying to pull a goal deficit back.
Here, they produced an immediate response which brought them level.
Thomas-Moore was fouled a few yards outside the area towards the left nearly 25 yards out. Law curled the free-kick superbly into the far corner.
Rotherham almost got caught out in similar fashion to the goal when McDonald burst onto the inside of Tonge but this time the right back just got back to make a successful challenge.
Nothing at all wrong with Rotherham’s approach as they tucked into the challenge and when Law produced a superb cross from the right, Fenton headed just over.
Then came the loss of Warrington on the half-hour and it seemed to knock the Millers – and conceding so soon afterwards certainly did.
When Weston pulled the ball over Newey’s head near the byeline, Warrington read the situation and was out and down bravely to collect. He had the ball as Weston certainly looked to put his foot in recklessly and he clearly caught the ‘keeper on the head.
I believe it should have been a red card and the Millers players weren’t happy with the Gillingham midfielder who was only booked. After a lengthy hold-up Warrington (injured on this ground a couple of years ago and out for a short spell) went off with a bloodied head and Annerson went on – but not before managers Ronnie Moore and Andy Hessenthaler angrily exchanged words on the touchline!
To rub it in Rotherham were behind on 36 minutes when, after Tonge and Jason Taylor both had passes blocked in the Gills half, McDonald raced onto a forward ball, turned Mullins outside then in before rifling an angled effort just inside the far post – a class finish for his 17th of the season.
Randall replaced Marshall at half-time with the next goal going to be decisive and Annerson made an excellent save from Fuller before a mid-pitch melee involving 15 players ended with bookings for Le Fondre (who’d been fouled) and Akinfenwa when the culprits were Richards, Fuller and Jason Taylor!
McDonald fired over when Annerson parried Weston’s shot and then the keeper defied McDonald after he outpaced Mullins again before McDonald, looking lethal, twice headed just over.
Rotherham battled on and Law was denied by a great save by Julian and, from the corner, Le Fondre’s overhead kick was a whisker wide.
With five minutes left Le Fondre fired over an empty net from three yards after Randall’s shot was parried with Millers players adamant it deflected off a Gills arm but the chance had gone and three minutes later substitute Oli finished off the Millers.